Believing in one’s self is thought to be the key that can unlock any achievement. There was a time when the concept of flying held the same weight as a daydream until the Wright brothers decided to invent the world’s first motor-operated airplane, making them the pioneers of aviation. There was also a time when being able to watch a scene on a black box was likened to magic, until television was invented, with different figures playing different roles in improving the invention. We may even be living in the era of yet another groundbreaking invention, interplanetary travel—courtesy of Elon Musk’s childhood dream.
All these notorious feats and accomplishments came from years or even decades of research and development. How could an idea sustain itself long enough to become a reality? Before they could believe in their inventions, they had to believe in themselves, and that what they are dedicating their lives to is a worthy tradeoff.
One could argue that these life-changing figures managed to achieve those feats because the cause is bigger than them. And I peg the question, do you not have a cause that is bigger than you? A goal that you wish to reach, a dream that you wish to wake up to, or have you squandered all hope for the sole reason of fear? The fear of not fulfilling your desires, the fear of expectations, the fear of pressure, the fear of disappointment. You comfort yourself with the thought that “you are just being realistic.” Perhaps the idea that you could go beyond the realm of mundane routines and confront every suppressed desire has lost its traction.
But why is that? Why are there individuals that want to transform the world and why are there individuals afraid to even rock the boat? Here are some reasons why you might not believe in yourself.
Have you ever accomplished something, be it an “A” on your exam, or a medal in a sports event, or made it into the top 3 for a competition, only to have your feats invalidated or worse— expected? As though all the hard work and effort you’ve poured into bettering yourself is reckoned for?
Upbringing plays a huge role in how one views themselves. That is why parenting styles are important to ensure that children grow up with a healthy dose of self-confidence and motivation to take on the world. However, not every child is lucky enough to be born in an environment of support; not every child is watered with unconditional love; not every child blooms at their full potential. Some children are tossed into the dirt and forced to grow on their own, to pluck the weeds of doubt alone, and fend for themselves against parasites eating away their ambitions.
Children’s development of social and cognitive skills which are essential for future success are best supported by responsive parenting styles. This refers to a combination of parental behaviours such as rich verbal input, support and encouragement of a child’s interest, and fostering a safe space for a child’s learning and development.
Typically, these parents can be seen freely interacting with their child, providing undivided attention and noticeably—mirroring. Mirroring refers to responding to what a baby is doing, which is intended to convey to their child that they are heard and their emotional state is understood. Such early acceptance is crucial for the development of a child’s self-esteem and self-worth.
Each time a parent shuns their child, it is like cutting off a safety net and condemning them for not having enough confidence to soar to greater heights. The reality is that it is hard to believe in yourself when your very foundation of approval is unreliable.
But one can only continue to blame their upbringing for so long until they decide for themselves that they are enough. It’s time to take charge and build your own foundation, to sow your own safety net, to approve of yourself and every single dream you’ve buried in the deepest depths of your heart. Because if you believe in yourself, nothing is impossible. This may be a cliché quote, but even the word “impossible” says “i’m possible” depending on how you choose to look at it.
Low Self Esteem
You don’t deserve to be here. The world looks at you in disdain, lips sneering at your every word, eyes scrutinizing your awkward movements. It’s almost as if time comes to a halt, allowing the cold, hard judgement of the world to crash upon you. In your head, the same words echo over and over again—“You’re not good enough, you’ll never be good enough.”
If your inner monologue is infused with self-hatred and devoid of confidence in your abilities, I regret to inform you that you are now a prisoner of your own mind. Or, in more formal terms, you have low self-esteem. Every decision you make is plagued with indecision, every flaw of yours seems to be amplified a thousand times. While your peers seem to be the embodiment of perfection, you can never even pass your own standards of what’s adequate.
As a result, you may heavily fortify your heart with protective walls, yet still somehow manage to have to pick up the broken pieces when attacked with a sharp word. The world may seem to hate you for what you do, but no one could ever berate you more than yourself. This is the curse of low self-esteem—it is not an enemy from the outside, but an enemy from within. However, if there’s one thing you can take from this article today, it should be that no problem exists without a solution.
The key to overcoming low self-esteem is to realize that you deserve more than the toxic voice in your head. Imagine a warrior, whose armour is forged with compassion and sword inscribed with the words of truth. This warrior has one sole purpose—to defeat the foe that is low self-esteem. The sword of truth will cut down any words that are not true, thus preventing the spread of malicious, self-deprecating thoughts. As your mind begins its first attack, allow the warrior to cut down its words of falsehood.
The world would be better off without you.
Lies are more fragile than glass, breaking upon its first contact with the truth. You may back up that claim with an instance where you helped a stranger or were there for a friend who needed someone to talk to. Surely they did benefit from your actions.
You’re not good at anything.
Again, watch the lie shatter as it meets the blade, thrumming with the power of the truth. Any talent, no matter how miniscule or insignificant it may seem, does mean you are good at something. Why, being able to survive life in and of itself is a skill, and you must be good at it to have survived for this long.
You will never be able to do anything worthwhile.
This lie may be the hardest to debunk. Your past may not be abundant with impressive feats, grandiose tales of creating change or defeating vicious foes. Yet, you have overcome many obstacles to get where you are today, and remembering those would help dismantle the last of low self-esteem’s web of lies.
Believe in yourself, because you are worth believing in.
Brick upon brick, layered with precision. Elegant sloping walls and magnificent dining halls. The castle you built was perfect in every way conceivable—constructed with hope, ambition and decades of hard work. Despite the hardships that were hurled your way, you persevered. From hastily drawn, abstract ideas, you formed the greatest masterpiece of all time. Nothing was amiss.
Except for one little detail: the foundation.
Within seconds, it all collapses. You watch, agape, as everything you had invested in the castle falls to the ground. Each delicate stained-glass window is shattered, every embellished turret is crushed.
All that’s left is the ashes of a once-great kingdom, and the rotting corpse of a fanciful dream.
I’m no stranger to failure, and chances are, you aren’t either. It can be the most abhorrent beast, staring us in the face with the audacity to say, “Oh well, guess all your efforts are going to waste.” What’s even worse is the feeling you get when you put in your absolute best, only to find out it simply wasn’t good enough. In that one moment, everything seems so utterly futile.
Yet, the world doesn’t end. It goes on, maddeningly oblivious to your loss. The constant rumination ruins you as that mistake now becomes glaringly obvious in your eyes.
Why did I do that? If only I could go back in time, I could change everything. I wish I would never fail again.
When you’ve experienced failure after failure, the easiest thing to do is to give up. After all, what hope lies in a future where failure runs rampant? Of course, I could quote J.K. Rowling’s long awaited success to you, and follow it with Thomas Edison’s 100 attempts of creating the lightbulb. Yet, the key message behind these stories is that just doing the same thing over and over again isn’t going to work—you have to improve.
Start by assessing what went wrong. Like a frenzied host upon witnessing a destructive child, usher both emotion and judgement out the door. Resist the urge to blame others, internally yell at yourself, or clench your teeth so hard they break. Just make notes of improvements you could make.
Then try it all over again.
Envision the glorious feeling of accomplishment, once at your fingertips. Bask in the dream and immerse yourself in it. Don’t get lost in your reverie, instead, let it be your motivation. Build your castle as you build up your belief in yourself.
There is no shortcut to achieving your dreams, but by allowing yourself to get stranded on the desolate road, you will get nowhere. Keep walking, even if the path gets hard. Adapt, because change isn’t meant to be our enemy. Believe you can make it, since failure isn’t your story. It’s only a chapter in your life, and without it, you can’t reach happily ever after.
Don’t let failure triumph over belief.
You Don’t Seem ‘Successful’
‘Chase the orb of light and it will lead you out of the darkness’. Heeding the advice of the world, you follow the ball emitting a brilliant glow, your arms outstretched and feet ready to leap. The orb is close. You edge a little closer, the bright object just out of your grasp. It stops. You clutch the light. Everything is now a little brighter.
Then you see the next orb of light and chase it too, the glow that surrounds you slowly dimming with every step.
You are so busy pursuing little orbs of light that you don’t even notice the switch one step away from where you are.
If you grew up with the same influences as I did, success would look a certain way to you: a plethora of extravagant cars and lavish mansions, bank accounts that rival those of Jeff Bezos’, breaking more records than anyone in the world, dozens of mindless workers who await your every instruction with bated breath.
Yes, the classic ‘power’, ‘money’ and ‘status’ combination that so often defines the main motives of movie villains.
It is, of course, unreasonable to assume that everyone has the same goals in mind. Yet, most people must hold some mental image of how success looks like, and if this image doesn’t match the current pathways of your life, you may be hindered from continuing on.
In short, feeling like you’ll never be successful is what’s keeping you from succeeding.
Now, it will not be easy to ignore the tantalizing orbs of light, dancing ever so playfully from the corner of your eye. Every moment not spent moving forward may feel like you’re succumbing to the darkness. However, there is only one long term solution—flipping the light switch. Make that your destination and encase the rest of your journey in luminosity.
There is nothing wrong with you if you don’t run yourself ragged while achieving one accomplishment after the next in rapid succession. Just because you prioritize your health over wealth doesn’t mean you have earned the labels of ‘lazy’ or ‘unmotivated’. While it is completely acceptable to desire the traditional views of success, it is also totally fine to want to stray from this path. What should not be alright is limiting yourself to the belief that success can only occur in a specific way. This would only result in a lack of belief in yourself and in society.
If you need one last reason to abandon the sinking ship which is a misguided view of what success really means, remember this: the main goal behind the age-old advice is happiness. Most people hold the common misconception that once you have achieved all that success has to offer, happiness will just come naturally. Reality, unfortunately, has been reflected across so many mirrors that the true image has become obscured. Happiness should be a conscious choice, a decision you make each day. It can be found in success, yet should not be fully relied upon it, especially if your definition of success may be distorted.
Don’t lose hope in yourself in an attempt to win at the world’s rigged game.
In the words of Theodore Roosevelt: “Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” If there’s an unshakeable passion entrenched at the very core of your being, don’t be afraid to take the leap. Prevent your past from ensnaring the present. Eradicate all toxic thoughts from the depths of your mind. Trust in your abilities and they shall carry you on, to a place where your success is immersed in meaning and joy.
Today, I ask only one thing of you:
Take the first step and believe in yourself.
By Isabel Lee & Natasha Maya